what to expect from our new mayor and council, and craft fair season is here
plus: reasons to be excited for the snow
Good morning! It seems winter is here, but Kanga insisted to me that it should still be warm enough to hang out on the back porch.
Before we get into local politics, the Prince George Citizen has handily put together of upcoming holiday craft fairs to put you in a more festive mood. Of course the biggest, Studio Fair, kicks off today at the CN Centre.
Other reasons to be excited for the snow? I saw the Hart Ski Hill getting ready yesterday and the updated Otway cross-country trails are coming into play.
Let’s get into it.
A housing-first mayor meets a centrist council
On Monday, Prince George’s new mayor and council will be sworn in. The majority of faces at the table will be familiar: All five council incumbents who ran were re-elected and the new faces aren’t that new, with Tim Bennett and Ron Polillo of the Prince George school board taking two of the open seats. The only untested faces are Trudy Klassen, a Prince George Citizen columnist and sometimes conservative/federal Conservative commentator, and mayor-elect Simon Yu, the first person of colour to be elected mayor in the city’s history.
To my mind, Yu is the biggest unknown here. While it’s true the mayor is just one voice at the council table, the position comes with a certain amount of leadership and ability to set the tone of discussion.
And what is that tone? At every debate I watched, which was the majority of them, Yu pushed a fairly simple message: “I have experience building things and I will build emergency shelters”. That was his answer to nearly every question that came up at debates. People worried about tent cities? He’ll build emergency shelters. Toxic drug crisis? We need to treat people with respect and part of that is housing — he’ll build emergency shelters. Public safety? Emergency shelters. Details such as where he’d build them and who would pay for them were omitted but the message of fast, durable shelters came up again and again.
So the question is, once he’s in the mayor’s seats, how hard will he push to make that happen? As I noted on election night, the people elected to council are fairly centrist — some lean a little more right, some lean a little more left, but by and large they lean straight down the middle. On top of that, none of them are particularly anti-housing. While other cities went to court to fight the province over proposed shelter spaces, Prince George council supported pretty much every hotel conversion and emergency shelter space that came up for approval, even in some cases where there was blowback from the neighbourhood.
But it’s also notable that while this isn’t an antagonistic approach to housing, it’s also not an activist one. Instead, it’s one that defers to the province and B.C. Housing and Northern Health and whomever else has jurisdiction. Yu’s proposal, on the other hand, has the potential to see the city take the lead. If he wants his emergency housing built for the winter (which is already here!), then there isn’t a lot of time to wait for new grants to come in from the province. If he wants to push forward, then he may have to propose using city land and funds to get it done — and that has the potential to be disruptive, particularly since the city is dealing with a fiscal timebomb due to previous budget decisions. I don’t expect it will cause any great divide — again, this is a council made up of people who like to build consensus, for the most part — but it will be interesting to see who stakes out a position of the city doing more and who pushes for the status quo. Or — and this is not a small possibility — it simply doesn’t come up if Yu doesn’t put it on the agenda.
Get to know your new mayor:
If you’re interested in learning more about Yu, I suggest:
A review of his campaign promises from the Prince George Citizen
“A WorkSafeBC investigator has "strongly" recommended the University Hospital of Northern B.C. take steps to prevent a repeat of an episode in which a patient with a ‘high risk for violence’ escaped a seclusion room in the psychiatric ward during a planned power outage.” The Prince George Citizen
UNBC’s Michael Henman has been named the Canada West Player of the Year after leading in soccer scoring all season. My Prince George Now
The Prince George Public Library is holding its fall book fair at the downtown branch on Saturday while the Nechako branch is closed indefinitely
Bunk #7, a play based on the true story of a riot at the Edmonton Indian Residential School, is stopping in town Saturday night
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That’s it for now — I won’t be sending anything out over the weekend. Thanks to everyone who’s signed up, I hope you’re enjoying it and I’d love to hear from you. Stay safe!